SCOTTISH BUSINESS LOOKS TO NEXT SNP LEADER TO RESTORE CONFIDENCE
While SNP knives are being sharpened ahead of the coming battle for Nicola Sturgeon’s crown, Scotland’s business leaders will be crossing their fingers that whoever emerges as her successor will pay a lot more attention to jobs and enterprise and a lot less to indyref obsessions and faddish, left-wing radicalism. Despite the First Minister’s emotional resignation speech and insistence that a majority of Scots now favour independence, her departure has punctured that balloon faster than an American missile. For business and industry, the reality of 15 years of SNP power in Scotland has been deeply depressing. The Nicola Sturgeon personality cult left no room for party criticism or complaint. Those who objected to the great leader’s doomed recourse to the UK Supreme Court for a ruling on whether Scotland could hold its own referendum, were quickly silenced. When judges announced that her ‘go-it-alone’ policy was illegal, Ms. Sturgeon’s judgement was dealt a shattering blow.
Her alternative scheme to transform the next UK general election into a ‘de-facto’ referendum caused great dismay in senior SNP ranks. Clearly the concept of an SNP manifesto containing only the single issue of indyref2, was less that appealing to many nationalists, who recognise their party’s failings on voters’ key priorities like the cost-of-living crisis, energy tariffs, inflation, declining education, the collapsing NHS, child poverty, the ferries fiasco and climate change. Party unrest from MPs who feared they would lose their seats, forced the First Minister to do a remarkable U-turn only weeks ago, when she watered down the ‘de-facto’ policy. Her new idea of using results from the next general election and the 2026 Holyrood election as a ‘de-facto’ poll were described by former SNP minister Alex Neil as “utterly confusing” and “a muddle and a guddle that would require a Philadelphia lawyer to work out.”
To quote a line from one of Nicola Sturgeon’s former speeches - “The tectonic plates of Scottish politics shifted,” and her resulting demise was hastened by her passion for radical, left-wing vogues like her gender reform policy. The people of Scotland were bemused that so much time and effort was being spent on such a minority issue, while so many other areas needed urgent attention. Battling to recover from the pandemic, Scotland’s economy has reeled from burgeoning energy costs, coupled with high levels of SNP government taxation and stagnating productivity. The SNP/Green coalition’s net zero strategy has slammed the door on North Sea Oil, shunning development of the new Cambo Oil Field and putting at risk over 100,000 oil and gas jobs. Business leaders have been further bewildered by plans to ban the advertising of alcohol, seriously undermining Scotland’s other great international success story, the whisky industry. The concept of a bamboozling deposit return scheme for all cans and bottles being introduced here in August, but not for a further two years in England, has added to the agonies of the drinks sector and hospitality trade.
Whoever assumes the SNP throne should bin the Sturgeon agenda, dump the constant obsession with indyref2 and focus on restoring Scotland’s economy. The threat of breaking up the UK, introducing a new currency, and creating a hard border with England where we do 60% of our trade, has hindered inward investment and cost jobs and prosperity. It has terrified the financial services sector who employ over 150,000 people in Scotland. The relentless SNP/Green impulsion to blame everything on London has to stop. It is time the Scottish government worked together with the UK government for the benefit of the people of Scotland. Economic recovery can only be achieved by all of us pulling together.